Panel Paper: Math in the Real World: Early Findings from a Study of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways

Friday, November 3, 2017
Haymarket (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, John Diamond and Elena Serna-Wallender, MDRC

Nationally, three year graduation rates at community colleges are around 20 percent. Rates are especially low for students who enter college unprepared to attempt college-level math classes. These students must take one to four levels of developmental math, a set of preparatory courses that aim to build students’ skills, before they can enroll — and hopefully succeed — in college-level math. Few students enroll in and successfully complete these developmental course sequences, effectively precluding them from achieving a college degree.

The Dana Center Mathematics Pathways (DCMP) seeks to help students succeed in developmental math by altering the traditional sequencing, content, and pedagogy in developmental and college-level math courses. The DCMP offers students an accelerated developmental math course that emphasizes statistical and quantitative reasoning skills, while also providing models for three alternative college-level math pathways — statistics; quantitative reasoning; and a path to calculus for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors — which are intended to better align with students’ intended fields of study.

To better understand the effects of the DCMP, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR, a partnership of researchers led by the Community College Research Center and MDRC) launched a random assignment study of the program in 2014. CAPR’s study of DCMP is the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) of this increasingly popular approach to developmental math reform. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the CAPR study has randomly assigned more than 1,400 students at four colleges into two research groups: a program group that is eligible to enroll in DCMP courses, and a standard group that can enroll in the colleges’ standard developmental and college-level math offerings.

We will present early findings that show effects on the first two cohorts of students after one semester in the study. These findings will not be public until June, 2017, but will include qualitative analyses of implementation practices, as well as an assessment of program fidelity. We will also present rigorous estimates of the program’s impacts on students’ developmental math pass rates and credit accumulation in the first semester after random assignment.

The final report on the DCMP, scheduled to be released in 2019, will include additional information on program implementation, a larger sample of students, and analyses of longer-term program impacts on students’ academic outcomes, including students’ performance in college-level classes.